Following the Florida Gators first win of the season — a 65-0 drubbing of under matched Eastern Michigan — Dante Fowler had these words to say about the game.
“Every game we’re out to make a statement and [beating Eastern Michigan] was one statement that we made. Next is Kentucky.”
Florida’s statement against Kentucky was less than resounding but going by what Fowler said two weeks ago, there is another game and another statement to be made this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
For about as long as Nick Saban has been running the show, the Crimson Tide has been the crème de la crème of college football. Saban runs a tight ship, it’s a program run more like a NFL franchise and the way Alabama has produced NFL talent, it may as well be a factory for the next level.
Alabama has won three national championships since 2009 and 77 football games, the most of any team in the SEC.
Florida is less than a month into the season, they’ve only played three games in total but if we take Fowler at his word and agree that every game is a statement then this week is the biggest statement of the season.
“Playing against Alabama, you know, they’re considered one the best so in order for you to be the best, you got to beat the best,” Fowler said on Wednesday. “That’s one of the teams.”
A win this week would be more than just a statement. The Gators are a double-digit underdog according to the guys who set lines and build gigantic casinos out in the desert. The Gators don’t see themselves as an underdog this week.
“Like we said from the beginning, we’re all we got and we’re all we need. We don’t need anyone else’s opinion or approval,” senior center Max Garcia said. “We don’t need anyone else’s confidence in us. We have our confidence in ourselves and this team and this program. That’s just the way it’s going to be. People are writing us off, but that’s just how we want it.”
At the end of the day this is just football. It’s just a game and that’s how the Gators are taking it — at least publically.
They won’t talk about how great a feeling it would be to take down Alabama on the road. They won’t admit that this game is the biggest one they’ve played or perhaps will play all season. Simply saying, this is a statement game because it’s the next one on the schedule. Will Muschamp said on the SEC teleconference that the Gators are taking this season one week at a time, “we’re in a series of one-game seasons as far as I’m concerned right now, and that’s how we’re looking at it,” he said.
It’s the “nameless-faceless” approach that we heard all last season. Except this week there are a lot of household names and first round draft picks to go along with those “nameless-faceless” opponents Florida talks about.
They won’t admit it and that’s good. They don’t need to go into the game putting their opponent on a pedestal. Alabama is good, damn good, and going into the game with any other attitude would lead to an embarrassing loss.
“Obviously, everyone wants to beat Bama, so I guess you could say it’s a statement game,” sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves said.
The coaching staff has drilled the “series of one-game seasons” deep into the mind of their football team. To them, each win is a statement, beating Kentucky and Eastern Michigan counted for just one win apiece and beating Alabama would only add one more win to their record.
“Our job is to be the No. 1 team in the SEC and win it,” Fowler said. “So it’s just another ‘W’ we’ve got to get.”
They won’t admit it before the game on Saturday and they shouldn’t but somewhere deep down each of them knows the significance this game holds. Saturday afternoon the Gators will find out just where they stack up in the SEC. This game is a measuring stick to see if Jeremy Foley and Will Muschamp were right about this program heading in the right direction.
If the Gators want to be the best team in the SEC — contending for conference and national championships then a statement can and needs to be made on Saturday.
Like it or not, this isn’t just another “statement game.”
This is the statement game.